The absence of a skilled labor force in Mali is a major constraint for attracting foreign investment and business formation. The 1996 decentralization law led to the creation of 703 municipalities, 49 circles, 8 regions and the District of Bamako. In 2002, the Government adopted the Institutional Development Program, and later developed an operational plan for 2006-2009, which aims to improve resources management. Nevertheless, decentralization is not yet a reality. In the education sector, the first evaluation of the new decentralized management system has recently been published, stressing the need to improve the effectiveness of resources transfer, the empowerment of local and regional bodies (Academie d’enseignements (AE), Centre d’Animation Pedagogiques (CAP), Comites de gestion Scolaires (CGS), etc.) and the capacity of structures in charge of implementing decentralization, such as the Agence Nationale d’Investissement des Collectivites Territoriales (ANICT) or the Cellule d’Appui a la Deconcentration et la Decentralisation de l’Education (CADDE).
The quality of education in Mali remains a major concern, as students’ learning achievement scores in reading and mathematics are among the lowest in francophone African countries (along with Niger and Chad). The 2005 Learning Achievement Assessment (PASEC) shows that only 55.2 percent of grade two students in Mali achieved the average score in mathematics, and only 48 percent in reading
The International Development Association (IDA) has an ongoing investment lending operation to support implementation of reforms in the Education Sector (closing in December 2010). The project objectives aim at increasing both access and quality of basic education while focusing on sub-sector management through strengthening decentralization. Increasing access is conducted through the national agency of territorial collectivity investment (ANICT) which ensures transfer of investment funds to decentralized entities and oversight of school construction management and control, while the central ministry and its deconcentrated entities manage school mapping and its day-to-day management. Quality improvement of basic education, including secondary education is addressed through teachers training (both pre and in-service), textbooks and learning material acquisition and distribution with implementation of reading areas inside classrooms, and direct transfers to school to acquire materials locally. These funds are managed locally by the school headmaster and the locally elected community body (COGES) to support school functioning and social accountability.
The ongoing program is progressing well towards its development objective of education for all by 2020. Access to primary education has reached 82 percent (gross enrollment rate). Overall learning achievement is also improving from 54 percent to 55.7 percent (close to the target of 56.4 percent). However, despite the progress made in girls schooling (gross enrollment rate of 73 percent exceeds the target 68 percent), the gender gap is still significant with a difference of 18 percentage points between boys and girls. Repetition rate has been reduced to 13.4 percent (below the target of 13.7 percent). An issue that remains to be resolved is related to the high ratio of 64 students per teacher (much higher than the target 50) and the low quality in learning achievement as shown by students’ scores in Math and Reading (only 55.2 percent of grade two students in Mali achieved the average score in mathematics, and only 48 percent in reading).
The project activities have supported these results through the construction of more than 1,200 classrooms, out of 4,500 in the initial program in primary education, and 130 classrooms in secondary education. It has contributed to the construction of two teachers training institutes, which allowed for the training of more than 1,800 additional teachers, and the in-service training of more than 4,000 teachers. More than 2,000,000 textbooks have been distributed and reading areas established in 3,500 classrooms across the country. In addition, the project has reached 1,400,000 students in primary school through direct transfers of funds to decentralized entities.
IDA is supporting policy dialogue and donors coordination in the sector through its operations and sector work to improve knowledge for policy decision. The Second Education Sector Investment Project (PISE-II) is financed via the original IDA allocation (US$35 million approved in 2006), the supplemental IDA allocation (US$15 million approved in June 2007) and an Education for All - Fast Track Initiative (EFA-FTI) grant in the amount (US$8.7 million approved in December 2007). With a current disbursement rate of 76 percent, the project objectives aim at increasing both access and quality of basic education. Concurrently, IDA supported in fiscal year 2009, the update of the Country Status Report (CSR) as part of the preparation of PISE III and fully financed by the Education Program Development Fund (EPDF Trust Fund). The CSR intends to strengthen the knowledge base for the formulation of national educational policies and the third phase of Programme Décenal de Developpement de l’ëducation (PRODEC) -the Programme d’Investissement du Secteur de l’ëducation (PISE III). Finally, Mali is one of eight countries selected in 2008 to receive analytical support from the Africa Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Initiative, whose primary objective is to ensure that early childhood development is included as a strong component in PISE III.
Donor coordination is very strong in Mali. Monthly meetings of the donors coordination steering committee (Cadre partenarial) occur and usually gather up to 15 donors. Donors are involved in both budget support and a project approach and the donors are also contributing through technical working groups on specific topics (such as youth training, fiscal and financial management, girls enrollment).
Currently, the government, in close coordination with the Local Donor Group (), has prepared the third phase (PISE III) of the PRODEC for 2010-2012. IDA has assisted the government with the updating of the CSR and will contribute to the new program through support to higher education and youth development. In addition, donors and the government have requested that the Bank be the supervising entity for the next FTI request planned for March 2011. Therefore, a new operation will be designed this fiscal year using a development policy lending (DPL) instrument as agreed by the government and donors.
Moving forward, the emphasis is on full achievement of the project’s objectives. In addition, to address the need of a skilled labor force for the modern economy and to attract more foreign investment, IDA is developing a higher education and skills development project. This project will be aimed at improving the labor force and laying the foundation for a diversified higher education and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) landscape. In addition, a youth and development operation will be designed to respond to the need of the mostly young population and support increased participation in the economy.
“This support did a lot last year to help our teachers by enabling us to buy metric geometry materials” said Abdoul Aziz Sissako, President of a School Management Committee in Segou. In fact, it was due to this support that some schools had good attendance when schools reopened for the year. The grants ranged from 50,000 CFAF for schools with less than 100 students, 75,000 CFAF for schools with 100-300 students, and 100,000 Fcfa for schools with more than 300 students.
According to Mamadou C. Diarra, Director of the Railways School in Markala, the small grants system has proven to be very useful as it allows schools to purchase essential supplies such as chalk, rulers, calculators and notebooks. “These grants provide the only funds available in certain schools and ensure some children receive basic supplies without which they would not attend school,” he said.
Another School Management Committee President, Mr. Dramane Diafaga, from Niono, added that the grants supplement what parents are able to contribute towards basic school supplies. This was confirmed by Babri Gallédou, Director of the Teaching Support Center in Fana, 100 km from Bamako. “These funds,” he said, “helped us begin the school year with fewer problems, especially as they are provided at the beginning of the year.”